Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Census Bloodbath: Oklahoma, Where The Blood Comes Rushing Down The Knife

Year: 1987
Director: Tim Boggs
Cast: Doug Barry, Angela Darter, Mike Kaufman 
Run Time: 1 hour 22 minutes

When AGFA (the American Genre Film Archive) teams with Bleeding Skull! (the internet's foremost curators of shot-on-video trash, and the only reason I have been able to see Cards of Death in my lifetime), that's the cue for any self-respecting slasher fan to perk up their ears. They have done so to bring the world Blood Lake, which is billed as the only slasher film that has a stamp of approval from both David Lee Roth and Andy Warhol. Mind you, I can't find any evidence for this claim, but even if it's true just reflect for a minute exactly what kind of toxic masculinity these men might be keen to reward, and then multiply that by ten. There you have Blood Lake.

That is, if you can even see it.

Stop me if you've heard this before: In Blood Lake a group of teenagers heads up to a cabin by Oklahoma's Cedar Lake for a bit of good clean American fun. Becky's (Angela Darter) parents own the place; Mike (Doug Barry, also the film's writer, insofar as it has one credited even though it was clearly improvised), her boyfriend; straight couple Bryan (Mike Kaufman) and Kim (Andrea Adams); and gay couple Chuck (Darren Waters) and Dennis (Michael Darter), who the movie would have us believe are straight best friends who just happen to be sharing the cabin next door. So far so peachy. 

But here's the thing. They've dragged along Mike's younger brother Lil Tony (Travis Krasser) and unaffiliated child Susan (Christie Willoughby). And as evidenced by every line of dialogue he ever delivers, Lil Tony reeeeeally wants to make passionate love to Susan even though they're both like ten years old. Everybody seems perfectly fine with this, and with the fact that they're lugging around two literal children on their water skiing weekend. It's a frighteningly aggressive choice that is both inscrutable and disgusting, but at least it's... interesting? Question mark?

Anyway, a killer (Tiny Frazier) shows up eventually to knock off a couple people who wander away from the party, but tragically Lil Tony doesn't end up on the chopping block.

Even though his entire role is basically anti-masculinity propaganda.

Wow, Blood Lake... Where to begin... How about the fact that there's almost nothing worth watching in this entire span of 82 minutes? This is one of those slashers that has almost no money for special effects so they don't really attempt any, making the already sparse killings feel incredibly anti-climactic. And the scenes we get to spend with the characters (which are numerous) don't allow us to penetrate even an inch into their skulls and we end up knowing not a single thing about any of them, with one bizarre exception.

The only reason to even perk up during these endless, vacuous scenes of water skiing to full Voyager trackss, muffled babbling at picnics, and what feels like fifteen full minutes of playing Quarters around a card table, is Mike - specifically Doug Barry's performance of same. Mike is an enigma wrapped in a mystery shrouded in an Oklahoma accent. While he can be a deadpan bore about 80 percent of the time, including the scene where he discovers a body (his flat, entirely unaffected delivery of "It's Dennis..." when he sees his friend's corpse strung up in the trees needs to be heard to be believed), he has a hair trigger for the smallest, most specific stimuli. Something like a noise in the attic or a locked door will send him careening into madness, and for minutes on end he will run shrieking through the dark, usually shirtless, like Arnold Schwarzenegger from Commando has suddenly possessed his body. Every choice involved in the construction of Mike is a baffling one, and he's the only character worth watching because he's such a puzzlement.

Unfortunately, Blood Lake thinks its ensemble is so inherently interesting you'll want to revel in their scintillating lack of chemistry for hours on end. We're only here for Mike, movie! Bring on the Mike!

The only other interesting thing about Blood Lake is the killer, and that's only because of what the final ten minutes of the movie decide to do with him. Before that he's as anonymous, unmasked, and unthreatening as the no-name stalker wandering through Final Exam, but once his motive gets explained... Well, it's a doozy. Spoiler warning: Apparently Becky's parents "bought the house from him and never paid him for it." Excuse me, what? That's a whole lot of bad-good dialogue to chew on, and that flavor is amplified greatly by the bizarre coda of the killer staring out at the now dry lake, seemingly contemplating his life and his choices. Maybe this is the only scene Andy Warhol saw before giving his recommendation.

Of course, even this scene is bogged down by extra padding as the camera Ken Burnses itself into a coma with infinite, poorly framed shots of the muddy trash the lake has left behind. Look, we never pretended this was a well made movie. Beyond a mirror shot that's kinda neat, there's absolutely nothing that is pleasurable to the eyes in Blood Lake. It's a movie directed by a man who would go on to be quite successful in the field of sound editing, and it shows. Mind you, the sound isn't particularly great on this movie either, but you can blame the equipment and the budget entirely for that one. 

OK, time to stop ragging on this movie. In the low budget reviewing game, it's easy to get carried away. But there's a difference between a movie where you can go "they missed the mark but really went for something and I respect that," and one that has no clear ambitions other than to fill your time with whatever empty fluff they can stuff into the screen. Blood Lake is firmly in the latter camp.

So while I respect AGFA & Co.'s contributions to the preservation of slasher film history and by extension this very project, I would not recommend any single human being watch this movie. Ever again. Please. For the love of God.

Killer: Jed (Tiny Frazier)
Final Girl: Susan (Christie Willoughby) ish. And Becky (Angela Darter) survives but it's definitely not her.
Best Kill: When Brian's throat is slit, he hilariously sprays blood all over his girlfriend's face.
Sign of the Times: The sheer casualness with which gay slurs are flung between male friends.
Scariest Moment: Any time Lil Tony opens his mouth.
Weirdest Moment: The film ends on the following credit: "Dry Lake Special Visual Effects by An Act of God."

Champion Dialogue: "I've got my beer, my sex partner, I'm fine."
Body Count: 5; not including two stab wounds in the finale that don't turn out to be fatal blows.
  1. Worker is stabbed in the chest.
  2. Chuck is drowned.
  3. Dennis is stabbed in the gut.
  4. Bryan has his throat slit.
  5. Kim is stabbed.
TL;DR: Blood Lake is an abysmal shred of low budget slashery that has a few elements to make it interesting but which conspicuously fail to redeem it.
Rating: 2/10
Word Count: 1202


  1. Yay! New CB! This movie looks... wow, really really awful!

    Good to see another post tho, B.

    1. Oh man, I've been so busy! I'm happy to be back on the horse too! I'm definitely going to make a more concerted effort on this project, because I don't want to be a grandfather by the time I finish.

      And hey, this project is all about separating the wheat from the chaff. This one just happens to be chaff ;)